UW News

October 18, 2007

Green living in the green room: KUOW embraces composting

UW News

Even as KUOW, the UW’s National Public Radio affiliate, asks for green from its listeners in its pledge drives, the station’s staff and volunteers are going green by recycling and composting, especially in — you guessed it — the green room.

That room, where guests and staff can spend time between appearances, happens also to be the kitchen at the KUOW office. And through the help of the people at the UW Recycling Program, the green room as well as the station’s hospitality room for volunteers and its phone room (where they take your pledges, and that number again is 206-543-9595) are all recycling and compost-friendly.

It’s a trend spreading campuswide. The UW’s composting program began in 2004 and in the 2006/2007 fiscal year, 292 tons of food waste was collected. But in this case the idea came from Pat Kaufman and Kristin Elko, manager and coordinator, respectively, of the UW Recycling Program. That’s part of Property and Transport Services, by the way, which is part of Facilities Services, but we digress.

Elko said she and Kaufman noticed during KUOW’s spring pledge drive that the station was asking area restaurants to donate food for volunteers to eat while taking pledge calls. “We thought, if they’re going to have all this food, that will mean leftovers — maybe they can compost them. So we called them up and invited them to participate.”

This met with the approval of Stephanie Shandera, the station’s office manager. She then became the station’s self-proclaimed recycling point person — she freely uses the word “nag” — and created signs pointing fellow staffers and volunteers where and how to discard cans, bottles and clean paper for recycling, and food scraps and food containers for composting.

Since the KUOW office is off campus, on University Way, the station’s recycling and compost bins are not picked up by UW crews. But Elko said her office was able to connect KUOW with Cedar Grove Composting, the firm that handles all UW compost, and provided consulting help, too — recommending the right biodegradable bags and containers appropriate for the station.

Shandera, at the station, said the change has helped greatly reduce waste there, especially during pledge drives, when volunteers fill the office daily. “We have four shifts of 15 volunteers every day for a week,” she said, “and we feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

So, what started as a project during pledge drives is now becoming a permanent habit at KUOW.

Elko and Kaufman said their department stands ready to help any other UW unit looking to compost. “They can e-mail recycle@u.washington.edu and we will work with them to get it set up.”